I don’t want this sugarcoated: this season has been a waking nightmare for the Flyers.
Some can and will make excuses and point their fingers at the laundry list of injuries this team has sustained. Key injuries such as one to Ryan Ellis, the defenseman who was brought in to stabilize franchise staple Ivan Provorov and be the 1A to Provorov’s 1B have been sidelined for almost the whole year. Other franchise players like Kevin Hayes, Joel Farabee, and Sean Couturier have missed time, too. Add in young guys like Wade Allison and free-agent addition Derick Brassard and the injured list quickly piled up.
As difficult as it may be to swallow, injuries happen and it is, unfortunately, a part of hockey. The team had to overcome and find ways to be competitive even though they found themselves shorthanded early and often. This is where a good franchise will turn toward their AHL affiliate and fill their gaps accordingly with young, budding talent. Except when the Flyers turned to the Phantoms they found the cupboard was bare and had no one of value to step up and keep the team afloat.
In short, the injuries, coupled with the team quitting on the head coach, led to the following: an 8-game losing streak culminating with Alain Vigneault being fired, the team reaching double-digit consecutive losses, some wins and point streaks sprinkled in, then followed by another 10+ game losing streak.
The Flyers aren’t just a bad hockey team right now – they’re a directionless mess with the possibility of becoming irrelevant.
What Does That Mean?
They’re a team at a crossroads. They are probably equidistant from being a good, competitive team and being a bottom-of-the-barrel NHL team. A decision needs to be made in the Flyers front office, a decision that no one should be forced to make. The same kind of decision levied by the Sixers front office in 2013 when they decided to fight for an eighth seed isn’t good enough and entered “The Process,” a rebuild no professional sports team has done before.
A similar decision was made in 2015 when the Phillies traded Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers signaling a rebuild for the team that broke a 25-year championship drought. Keeping the sports equal – think about when the Flyers traded Peter Forsberg in 2007 or Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in 2011.
The 2021-22 season started with such promise – general manager Chuck Fletcher made a myriad of moves to try to better the team. He traded Nolan Patrick for Ryan Ellis, Robert Hagg and a pick for Rasmus Ristolainen, and Jake Voracek for Cam Atkinson. He also moved the albatross that was Shayne Gostisbehere’s contract, signed Derick Brassard and Keith Yandle. Fletcher pushed damn near all his chips to the center of the table and halfway through the season, it’s pretty evident his gamble was unsuccessful.
To steal a quote from former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, Fletcher and the Flyers still ‘have a chip and a chair.’ Though they surely won’t make the playoffs this season, moves can still be made to better the team – they just have to find them.
What To Do?
If you’re Chuck Fletcher you’re obligated to keep your phone on and entertain offers on everybody. Given the state of this team, no one should be untouchable. Carter Hart is probably the closest thing along with Joel Farabee – but anybody else can be had for the right price.
Claude Giroux to the highest bidder? Thank you for your service, Captain. Go get a Cup.
Cam Atkinson? Travis Sanheim? Travis Konecny? Rasmus Ristolainen? See ya.
Sean Couturier? Ivan Provorov? Kevin Hayes? If the return is strong enough, absolutely.
Keeping with the poker analogy, the Flyers are still at the table and have a chance to win a few hands and really turn their luck around – it’s just the matter of making a string of smart moves and drafting well. This is likely to be a slow procedure but this team needs a hard reset and some cross between a “Sixers Process” and a “re-tooling” is the most likely scenario. Results won’t happen overnight and that’s OK.
The Flyers are a bad hockey team right now but the worst thing about them is their identity or lack thereof. Once they choose a direction things can and will be easier. But as Tom Petty once said, “The waiting is the hardest part,” until then, the team at PSN is here to talk Flyers and commiserate with you.
Brace Hemmelgarn/Icon Sportswire